If the C major Concerto shows Saint-Saëns handling resourcefully a traditional form, in the A major work of the following year his inventiveness extends to the actual formal outlines—a single Allegro movement enclosing an Andante middle section. It was the first of several works he composed for the great Spanish violinist Pablo de Sarasate, in 1859 just fifteen years old but already a famous virtuoso. It’s tempting to see the Concerto as a portrait of the young maestro—impulsive and mercurial at the start and then, at the next solo entry, graceful and elegant. (We can hear these qualities in the recordings Sarasate made in 1904.) The soloist’s opening gesture, with its chordal motif followed by a rhythmic figure, is rarely absent for long, and gives rise to a large variety of different continuations. The Andante interlude has the simplest design—an extended violin melody framed by an introduction and postlude incorporating a tentative woodwind figure accompanied by violin trills. The organization of the Allegro is much more complex and dynamic, especially the way the material is re-ordered and re-composed after the Andante.
from notes by Duncan Druce © 1999